Fred Shapiro of Yale Law School has kindly allowed me to reproduce the following question which he posted to a constitutional law professors’ mailing list a few days ago:
I apologize for diverting attention from the very important substantive discussion of the Alito hearings with a question about the sociology of legal scholarship that may be too much elite-law-school-inside-baseball for many on this list, but here goes:
I notice that the New York Times “News Analysis” about the hearings this morning quotes Cass Sunstein of Chicago, Jack Balkin of Yale, Vikram Amar of Hastings, Mark Tushnet of Georgetown, John Yoo of Berkeley, Noah Feldman of NYU, Douglas Kmiec of Pepperdine, Judith Resnik of Yale. It strikes me that no one from Harvard Law School is quoted, reminding me that I recently compiled data for a list of the most-cited law review articles of the last 10 years and found that Harvard Law School faculty figured on the list only minimally. I also found that none of the seven most-cited articles from that period were published in the Harvard Law Review, which has dominated all previous most-cited lists.
So I am wondering whether Harvard Law School may have in recent years dropped off the intellectual map of legal scholarship relative to its past position of great prominence? Does this ring true subjectively with any students of legal scholarship? (I realize that Harvard Law School may still kick ass in other aspects of its mission, such as training leaders of the bar or future Supreme Court justices or influencing the corporate world or influencing elites in foreign countries.)
This drew a reply, from Steve Burbank of Penn,
What a peculiar post, although perhaps not given the New Haven source. Since when do talking heads have anything to do with scholarship? One would have to see the full results, and consider the methodology, of the citation study in order to determine whether it is relevant to a question worth asking and what its probative value might be. Until then, I would hesitate to give this rumor legs.
To which Fred Shaprio answered,
I realize that talking heads does not equal scholarship, and the instance I cited may reflect nothing more than the characteristics of one reporter’s Rolodex. But I am suggesting that HLS’s influence on scholarship and constitutional law policy debates may have waned, and am looking whether this rings true subjectively with those who know much more about the substance and structure of legal scholarship than I do. (And, as this respondent suggests, I can’t necessarily get impartial assessments in New Haven!).
Fred Shapiro (Harvard Law School Class of 1980)
As a YLS ’87 grad, I expect to see some Harvard spirit in the comments.